Ortiz case showcases Dominican justice system

The medical care David Ortiz is receiving in Boston as he recovers from a gunshot wound is some of the best in the world, but the same superlatives cannot be used in describing the criminal justice process unfolding in the Dominican Republic to bring the gunman and others to account for the attack.

The scene playing out around the courthouse in Santo Domingo has provided the news media with juicy tidbits – like the accused gunman spinning his version of events from a jailhouse window – but it has added more chaos to an already complicated case.

Shouting from his holding cell to someone filming with a cellphone, defendant Rolfi Ferreira Cruz claimed that Ortiz wasn’t his intended target, and suggested he was only given a description of the person he was hired to shoot.

CBS This Morning, which obtained the cellphone video, also showed the gauntlet that defendants need to pass through to get from courthouse to jail. Correspondent Mola Lenghi had the gall to describe the prisoner transfer as “more like a rugby scrum” after fully participating in the fracas, frantically and repeatedly asking Ferreira Cruz “did you do it?” as authorities hustled the defendants into pickup trucks.

The former Red Sox slugger is one of the most beloved athletes in Boston and in the Dominican Republic, where he grew up and where he still spends much of his time. Locally, the affection for Big Papi can be attributed to his bright personality and the way he has championed his community in addition to his strength at the plate.

Even in the Dominican Republic, which has one of the world’s highest murder rates, Ortiz traveled with little or no security detail, reports the Associated Press. Eddy Vladimir Feliz Garcia, the alleged motorcycle getaway driver, was beaten down and held by a crowd of people around Dial Bar and Lounge, the outdoor venue where the attack occurred Sunday night.

The Boston Globe has a team of reporters digging into the case, who report that more than a dozen people are implicated in the shooting. The list includes a man named Luis Rivas-Clase, aka “the Surgeon,” who is one of four suspects still at large. Rivas-Clase has been accused of ordering a hit on a man in Reading, Pennsylvania, last year, and a police official there said Rivas-Clase is in charge of a criminal organization.

One theory, according to the Globe, is that the plot to kill Ortiz, which allegedly involved a $7,800 payout to the hired killers, was cooked up by two prisoners – Jose Eduardo Ciprian Lebron, jailed on murder charges, and Carlos Rafael Alvarez, who is imprisoned for robbery.

None of the coverage has spelled out a motive for the hit, but if the criminals who arranged the operation wanted notoriety, they have succeeded in that.

The case has also brought attention to the way criminal justice is practiced in the Dominican Republic, a country with strong cultural and familial ties to Massachusetts.

Nine defendants made an initial appearance in court Thursday evening. The Globe reports the courthouse is “part of a makeshift operation that includes a small, dark jail cell where most detainees wait before they make their initial appearances before a judge in a trailer in the parking lot. The cell, where detainees are visible from behind an iron gate, is cordoned off by barbed wire, and reeks of sweat and urine.”

Maria Cramer, a court reporter covering the case for the Globe, tweeted that a lawyer told her the “entire process — from arraignment to the final decision on culpability — is closed to reporters.”

Access by the public, through the news media, to the court proceedings themselves – as opposed to just the prisoner transfer – would be a useful check on the administration of justice and can be a way to instill public confidence in the system.

While the justice system in the United States remains plagued by its own set of myriad problems, the level of medical care available at certain US hospitals is virtually unparalleled.

Ortiz was flown to Boston on Monday to be treated at Massachusetts General Hospital, where he is under the care of Dr. David King, and still upbeat, according to his daughter, Alexandria Ortiz. Ortiz’s wife, Tiffany Ortiz, also thanked the medical staff at Abel González Clinic in the Dominican Republic where Ortiz underwent six hours of surgery, stabilizing the 43-year-old before his transfer to Boston.

The medical story has been a good one so far, and fans are no doubt anxious to hear directly from the retired ballplayer once he feels healthy and comfortable enough to do that. The criminal justice story, however, has had some worrying aspects at this early stage.

ANDY METZGER


BEACON HILL

Attorney General Maura Healey has participated in 44 lawsuits against the Trump administration. Surprisingly, she says, the suits have not cost the state anything or detracted from local prosecutions because her staff is just working harder and longer. (CommonWealth) Two attorneys on Healey’s staff who are helping out in that effort are being paid by a nonprofit funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies. (CommonWealth)

Gov. Charlie Baker is facing intense criticism for failing to escalate the pace of investment in the T, but the governor says the agency can only go so fast in overhauling itself while still continuing to provide daily service. (CommonWealth)

In a new twist in his office’s case against former House speaker Sal DiMasi’s effort to return to Beacon Hill as a lobbyist, an attorney for Secretary of State Bill Galvin said at a hearing Thursday that DiMasi acted as a lobbyist without registering as one in 2006 and 2007 when he worked — as speaker — to steer state contracts to a software firm. (Boston Globe)

House Speaker Robert DeLeo laid out some legislative priorities at a luncheon in Haverhill where Methuen Mayor James Jajuga complained about traffic on Interstate 93 and asked what is being done about it. (Eagle-Tribune)

Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito along with Berkshire County District Attorney Andrea Harrington meet with students in Pittsfield to push a new campaign helping middle and high school students navigate relationships. (Berkshire Eagle)

Baker signs a bill into law that delays collection of the paid family leave tax. (MassLive)

In Gloucester, Baker used his lopsided victory margin in last year’s election as a rhetorical device to promote his housing choice bill, which would lower the threshold of votes needed to make certain zoning changes. (Gloucester Daily Times)

Lawmakers selected August 17 and 18 for a sales tax holiday. (State House News)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh is proposing an update to the city’s Trust Act to strengthen the prohibition on city police aiding federal immigration enforcement efforts. (Boston Globe)

The City of Lowell is looking into a report of a mix-up in grave markers at Westlawn Cemetery, which was identified by Bermaliz Berrios, who visits her mother’s grave every day. (Lowell Sun)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

A curious battle is breaking out in New York City, where Mayor Bill de Blasio wants to ban the sale of menthol cigarettes as a way to drive down smoking rates among blacks, while Rev. Al Sharpton — whose nonprofit is getting funding from big tobacco companies — is fighting the move, saying it would criminalize behavior in the black community, where nearly 9 of 10 smokers prefer menthol cigarettes. (Politico)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce President Jim Rooney says people think their MBTA commutes have gotten worse over the past five years, and he thinks people aren’t confident in the T, but he’s skeptical of the “just throw money at it” approach. (WBUR)

EDUCATION

The state has revoked accreditation for the nursing program at Roxbury Community College, the latest blow to a campus that has long suffered from poor outcomes. (Boston Globe)

As Wayland adjusts its school schedules to try to better match developing students’ circadian rhythms, high school and middle school will start later in the morning and elementary school will start earlier. (WBUR)

Lindsa McIntyre, principal at Jeremiah E. Burke High School in Dorchester, has been named state high school principal of the year. (Boston Globe)

ARTS/CULTURE

Firehouse Center for the Arts President Lois Honegger said artist shanties were mistakenly placed on land owned by the Waterfront Trust in Newburyport, and the trust’s chairman said he was “not too happy” about four of the structures winding up on the group’s waterfront property. (Salem News)

TRANSPORTATION

The number of Uber and Lyft ride-hailing trips in Massachusetts rose 25 percent in 2018 to 81.3 million. More than half the trips originated in Boston, but Cambridge residents, on a per capita basis, take more ride-hailing trips than anyone else. (CommonWealth),

Holy Cross associate professor Jerry Lembcke offers some ideas on how to transform the Worcester Regional Transit Authority. (Telegram & Gazette)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

The Massachusetts Competitive Partnership, a business group that helped sink the Cape Wind project, is now teeing up climate change as a priority issue to tackle. (Boston Globe)

US Rep. Steve Lynch is urging the state to restart the review process for a controversial natural gas compressor station proposed in Weymouth. (Patriot Ledger)

California is preparing for time-of-use electric rates, what some are calling surge pricing for electricity. Will it incentivize people to use less power at peak-demand periods? (Governing)

The population of the nocturnal whip-poor-will bird has dropped about 6 percent per year in Massachusetts, and the species’ numbers have been decimated around the country in recent decades as well. (WGBH)

CASINOS/MARIJUANA

After making history as one of the two first recreational marijuana shops to open in the state, Leicester-based Cultivate Holdings has made its mark again by becoming the first pot shop to be fined by the state’s Cannabis Control Commission, agreeing to pay $75,000 for having sold improperly labeled products. (Boston Globe)

The Brockton Board of Appeals approved a special permit for a retail marijuana shop across from the Westgate Mall. (The Enterprise)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Former governor Deval Patrick’s brother-in-law, Bernard Sigh, was found guilty yesterday of rape, stalking, kidnapping, witness intimidation and other charges in connection with a 2017 attack on his estranged wife, Patrick’s sister, in her Milton apartment. (Patriot Ledger)

Brockton judges are reducing pretrial detention of defendants and making increased use of community corrections centers. (The Enterprise)

Homayoun Maali, a Lawrence man charged with impersonating an attorney and bilking those in need of legal help, told Salem Superior Court Judge Thomas Dreschler he is having trouble finding an attorney himself. (Salem News)